Video: This microreactor is a MARVELS. Himmelstein | April 16, 2021
Interest is increasing in microreactor designs that offer a compact source of energy for applications ranging from electricity production to water purification. To help accelerate the deployment of microreactors, the U.S. Department of Energy is building one of its own to help researchers and end users understand how these systems can integrate with other technologies. The Microreactor Applications Research Validation and EvaLuation (MARVEL) project streamlines this development process for industry partners and will provide a dedicated location for them to quickly test, develop and demonstrate new technologies.
MARVEL will be installed and operated at U.S. Idaho National Laboratory’s Transient Reactor Test as a 100-kW thermal fission reactor based on an existing design and technology. Researchers expect the sodium-cooled reactor with natural circulation cooling and an operating temperature of 500° C to 550° C to be fabricated and started up within two years. With a two-year core life, the microreactor will be fueled by uranium zirconium hydride fuel pins using high-assay, low-enriched uranium from existing research supplies and capable of generating about 20 kW using Stirling engines.
The MARVEL test platform will be used to establish authorization, qualification and validation processes for microreactor technologies. Reactor capabilities in balancing grid demand and reactor power supply while supporting a range of applications such as integrated renewable energy systems, water purification, hydrogen production and heat for industrial processes will also be evaluated.
MARVEL should prove of value in developing autonomous technology to achieve optimal operation and supporting end users in testing specific reactor components for remote monitoring and autonomous control, including sensors and instrumentation for live data collection and wireless transmission.